Featured Upcoming Events
As an added insult, the Suwannee River Water Management District just made it easier for water users like Nestle to obtain permits by re-classifying the Santa Fe River as “in prevention” instead of “in recovery.” And this wasn’t easy to do, they had to work hard to make the change. This new classification means the river is meeting its minimum flows so more withdrawals won’t “harm” it, which is total BS. The District has admitted the river is already “significantly harmed” by too many withdrawals.
The river did not suddenly get well, the District changed the numbers to make it look better. The river is still 30 per cent down in its flow, and getting worse instead of better.
The final vote by the District Board of Directors will take place at a special meeting on Feb. 23, 2021.
If you want to help stop this you can speak to the Board of Directors, (instructions at the link above) and send a postcard to:
SRWMD BOARD OF DIRECTORS
9225 CR 49
LIVE OAK, FL 32060
and write NO PERMIT.
Read the entire article here in the Daytona Beach News Journal.
We follow this post with an article by Cindy Swriko of the Gainesville Sun which treats the same subject and also mentions OSFR, with different quotes from OSFR president Mike Roth in both. So, please continue reading after this post.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum
Florida, this is our water. Stop giving it free to bottlers who sell it for a profit
Adapted from a Gainesville Sun editorial
A recent ruling would allow nearly a million gallons of groundwater to be pumped each day for Nestle’s water-bottling operation near High Springs, but that shouldn’t be the final word on the matter.
The Suwannee River Water Management District still has an opportunity to reject the water-withdrawal permit and protect the Santa Fe River and its springs from further harm.
And while the board is deliberating, members of the Florida Legislature should take the opportunity to take this seriously. They’ve been overlooking these greedy water grabs for far too long.
Last month, an administrative law judge ruled that Seven Springs Water Co. met legal requirements to pump up to 984,000 gallons a day from the aquifer at Ginnie Springs for Nestle’s bottling plant. Judge G.W. Chisenhal’s recommended order now goes back to the district’s governing board to consider at a Feb. 23 special meeting.
The judge ruled the plant would be able to process the requested amount, and thus “the district now has reasonable assurances that all of the water withdrawn by Seven Springs will be utilized for a beneficial use, i.e., bottled water for personal consumption.”
The water management district and its board need to have the nerve to similarly stand up to Nestle. The law is on their side: The “public interest” is supposed to be protected when water permits are issued under state law, as Michael Roth of the water-advocacy group Our Santa Fe River points out in a guest column.
The public’s overwhelming interest is in protecting the aquifer, springs and river, not boosting the profits of an international corporation. The water management district itself determined in 2014 that the Santa Fe was beyond the point of significant harm due to excessive pumping reducing the flow from the springs feeding it.
Seven Springs has long had a permit for pumping water to the various owners of the bottling plant, but historically about 265,900 gallons a day have been pumped. Opening the door to Nestle pumping nearly four times that amount risks doing far greater damage that has already been documented.
Last month’s ruling doesn’t have to be the last word on the permit. The district and its board have plenty of reason to reject the permit beyond the technical issues cited by the judge.
Stop it or tax it
The debate won’t end with this permit, either. As long as Florida keeps giving away one of its most precious resources — its supply of pure, fresh drinking water — Nestle and other bottled-water profiteers will continue to suck the state dry. They’ve proved time and again that they care nothing about the damage they’re doing to Florida’s springs and other water bodies.
Lawmakers should right the balance, mandating denial for any permit that would do significant harm to nearby water bodies.
Meanwhile, there’s no good reason not to charge water bottlers the same 12.5-cent-cent-a-gallon tax paid by bottlers of soda and other beverages, and direct that money toward water-quality measures. Senate Bill 652, already filed for the 2021 session, would do just that. If it passes, the Seven Springs permit alone could generate as much as $43 million a year. It might not be enough to make up for the water companies’ wanton over-consumption, but it’s a start.
SPENDING AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Springs advocates criticize DeSantis proposed budget
Gainesville Sun USA TODAY NETWORK Feb. 13, 2021
The region’s springs and rivers were left relatively dry in the proposed budget of Gov. Ron DeSantis and any hope for more money for programs and land conservation now lies with the Florida Legislature, advocates said.
Ryan Smart of the Florida Springs Council said a disproportionate amount of money raised statewide for water projects is once again going south to the Everglades.
“Springs and North Florida’s waters are being left behind by the DeSantis administration,” Smart said. “They are proposing $473 million for Everglades restoration, a $150 million increase over last year but not one extra cent to protect springs and rivers.”
The council is a coalition of more than 50 environmental groups including the Florida Springs Institute, Ichetucknee Alliance, Our Santa Fe River and Silver Springs Alliance.
DeSantis’ budget is a blueprint for the Legislature, which will decide final 2021-22 spending in the session that begins on March 2.
The two water management districts in the region, Suwannee River and St. Johns River, have a rosier picture than Smart on new money for the region.
Both cited past funding and some of projects for which it was used as evidence that area water bodies are being helped. They have an expectation that work will continue.
The DeSantis budget did not set aside money for specific projects, but the money funneled to the districts can be used for programs to maintain spring/river systems and to improve the quality of water reaching the systems over land and via the aquifer.
Examples include buying land for conservation and working with cities to improve wastewater systems.
DeSantis earmarked $6.5 million to the Suwannee district for operations, permitting, land management and an effort to maintain minimum flows and water levels in rivers.
Also, DeSantis included $50 million in grant money statewide for springs. Another $40 million is earmarked for alternative water supply projects, such as wastewater treatment.
The districts work with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to identify and implement springs projects.
Both districts cited projects that have been funded with state money in recent years but did not specify if money for that work will be continued or if new projects will be added.
Since 2014, the Suwannee district has received more than $89 million in grant funding for 54 springs projects. The St. Johns district listed several regional projects that received state money in recent years including work at Silver Springs. Gainesville Regional Utilities got money for two programs including one to convert septic tanks to the sewer system.
“While we can’t address what specific project funding may come in FY 2021-2022, our past water quality protection and restoration, springs protection and alternative water supply projects offer a clue to the kinds of projects that make good candidates for State funding,” St. Johns spokeswoman Teresa Monson wrote in an email.
North Florida environmental groups said they value the Everglades and the need to restore it but add that waterways here are equally worthy.
An analysis of money collected through a tax on property transactions that was approved by Florida voters in 2014 for land acquisition shows a disproportionate amount goes to South Florida, Smart said.
In 2019, $2.64 million was collected in revenue. South Florida — roughly from Indian River and Manatee county southward — paid in $1.25 million.
“For every dollar being paid in by South Florida, they are getting a dollar back in Everglades restoration funding,” Smart said. “For every dollar paid in by Central Florida, we are getting a dime back in springs and river funding.”
DEP did not respond to a request made Tuesday afternoon for its perspective on the needs and funding for North Central Florida waterways.
Our Santa Fe River President Michael Roth said it’s doubtful the Legislature will come through with a boost. “Without hope we would just curl up and die but I don’t think this legislature is going to change that at all,” Roth said. “In the clean water act last year, the springs got pretty much written out of it.”